Change coming for Episcopal Diocese of NY

Time to catch up with a few items from the Episcopal Diocese of New York, which recently held its annual convention.

First off, Bishop Mark Sisk set in motion a process to find his successor. It is, however, a long process.

The diocese will hold an election next fall to choose a “bishop coadjutor,” who will eventually become the boss. Sisk himself served as bishop coadjutor for about three years before his predecessor, Bishop Richard Grein, retired.

Sisk, by any measure, has had a trying decade as bishop.

He was installed on Sept. 29, 2001, when we were all still in 9/11 shock.  Only a few weeks later, the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine had a terrible fire.

During his tenure, the Episcopal Church has, of course, been at something like war with the Anglican Communion over homosexuality. The Episcopal Diocese of New York is unabashedly pro-gay, and Sisk has repeatedly sought to assure New York’s Episcopalians that this won’t change no matter what happens outside the diocese.

He told me once that it is only a matter of time before everyone else catches up with the modern understanding of (and acceptance of) homosexuality. Just wait it out.

As Episcopal Church membership has continued to decline, Sisk has tried to become something of a voice for liberal Christianity in New York. The diocese even hired PR giants Rubenstein Associates at one point to help get some press. I’m not sure how successful he’s been. In fact, Sisk’s announcement of his eventual retirement has gotten little notice.

Sisk is a thoughtful fellow, an appropriate leader for the modern, liberal Episcopal Church of NY. His successor will have his (or her) work cut out for him (or her).

Second, the diocese’s Number 2, Bishop Catherine Roskam, officially the “bishop suffragan,” also announced that she will retire. Her stepping down will come sooner, at the end of 2011.

Roskam is based in Dobbs Ferry and oversees what is known as Region 2 of the diocese: Westchester, Rockland and Putnam. What we like to call the LoHud.

When Roskam was consecrated a bishop in 1996, she became only the 4th female Episcopal bishop in the U.S.

Roskam, like Sisk, is very liberal, very pro-gay involvement in the church, and has never been shy about expressing her exasperation with conservative Christians. She has periodically drawn the ire of conservatives. Two years ago, she received international headlines when she suggested at the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference in Canterbury that some Anglican bishops, based soley on the odds, probably beat their wives.

Over the years, Roskam has been very willing to answer my questions about just about anything. For that I thank her.

Finally, the diocese passed a resolution calling on the national church’s General Convention to authorize an investigation of the Institute on Religion & Democracy, a group that fights against the liberal current in mainline Protestant denominations.

The IRD seems tickled to get such direct attention from an old foe. A spokesman says: “With the diocese steadily hemorrhaging members and funds, it’s apparently easier for it to blame the IRD than to own up to the church-damaging consequences of choosing revisionist theology and liberal politics above the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

56% of Mainline Protestants say ‘accept homosexuality’

For a snapshot of where Mainline Protestants stand on the question whether gays and lesbians should be “accepted,” we have the latest numbers crunched by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life:

(NOTE: It’s worth noting that just because someone says that homosexuality should be accepted, doesn’t mean that they support same-sex marriage or the ordination of gay clergy.)

ELCA moves ahead (slowly) on sexuality

Well, a task force of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has released a long-awaited “draft” statement on human sexuality that may or may not satisfy anyone.

The 4.8-million-member ELCA is all caught up in the homosexuality debate — not unlike the Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church (USA) and the United Methodist Church.

images1.jpegThe ELCA’s membership is very divided over whether gays should be eligible for ordination and whether ministers should be allowed to bless same-sex unions (neither is currently allowed). The ELCA started a process in 2001 to develop a “social statement” on human sexuality and they don’t plan to wrap it up until 2009.

Some might say they’re dragging it out.

For good reason.

The draft statement recommends that the ELCA continue to define marriage as between a man and a woman, but does not take a position on whether gay unions should be recognized in another form.

The ELCA’s task force on sexuality will now take feedback until Nov. 1. Each regional synod of the denomination will hold a hearing to discuss the report.

Then the task force will begin to revise it.

In the conclusion, the report says:

Because of God’s embrace of all the creation in Christ, we are a people set free for lives of responsibility aimed at seeking the good of the neighbor. Following Jesus, we discern what this responsibility means in terms of human sexuality. We do this not in some abstract ideal realm, but amid all the complexities, conflicts, joys, and sorrows of actual social and individual life. It is a task that this church accepts as a redeemed community.